Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 24, 2015

You’re what the French call: les incompetents

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Dammit, I was going to not post anything else this week, but circumstances made that difficult.  On another site someone wasted a short story worth of words to find someone else to take heat for the City Council taking half measures with regard to the urgency ordinance rather than leave the blame where blame is due: at the feet of this City Council.  I mean it was essentially 2000+ words of “hey look over there!” but provided very little in the form of actually illuminating anything other than the fact that he really doesn’t like the City Attorney or her staff apparently.

Now, it’s the City Attorney’s fault for “revising” the ordinance from when they first presented the urgency ordinance to the one actually signed by Mayor Trish Spencer.  The documents are virtually identical with two exceptions.  Here’s one of the two differences between the documents:

Proposed moratorium Signed moratorium
From the effective date of this urgency Ordinance and continuing for a period of sixty-five (65) days (unless extended), or until the effective date of any City adopted regulations relating to rent control, just cause for eviction, and/or other tenant protection policies, whichever occurs first, no housing provider shall… From the effective date of this urgency Ordinance and continuing for a period of sixty-five (65) days (unless extended), or until the effective date of any City adopted regulations relating to rent control, just cause for eviction, and/or other tenant protection policies, whichever occurs first, no housing provider shall …
(c) evict a tenant except for cause as set forth in Exhibit A to this Ordinance. (c) take action to terminate any tenancy including, but not limited to, making a demand for possession of a rental unit, threatening to terminate a tenancy, serving any notice to quit or other eviction notice or bringing any action to recover possession of a rental unit except for cause as set forth in Exhibit A to this Ordinance.

While what was signed is definitely more wordy, it essentially does the same thing.  In fact, the language was cribbed from Santa Monica’s  rent control law.  But the language on the right side was signed by the Mayor and it’s what the Council had discussed that night when they went back and forth about whether the urgency ordinance would cover noticing during the 65 days or just a straight up eviction.  Borrowing from an existing rent control law like Santa Monica’s kept them “legal” but didn’t close every loophole for tenants.   In both cases in the proposed moratorium language and in what was signed there was no protection for the families at 470 Central Avenue.  As has been reported, the new “housing providers” of 470 Central used the capital improvements argument to evict the tenants.  In both the proposed moratorium and the signed version this is allowed.

The failure was on the part of the City Council to draft clear and explicit policy that every thing stops during the time when they are working out a permanent policy solution.   And now the City Council is trying to correct the oversight by removing certain grounds for Just Cause evictions, because that’s where the real problem is.  The tenants of 470 Central were given notice, not because there was a difference in what was proposed vs what was signed, but because the policy upon which the moratorium was based was that evictions for cause were allowed.

From the staff report:

Given the lack of clarity on how to meet, and how to enforce, the requirements of this section, it may be prudent to remove this grounds for a just cause eviction during the moratorium period until staff can return to City Council with long-term policies and regulations governing terminations for substantial rehabilitation.  By doing so, it ensures the status quo regarding these issues during the moratorium period in that any action to terminate a tenancy, such as serving termination notices based on substantial rehabilitation that occurred between November 5, 2015 and December 1, 2015, would be null and void.

And further:

In addition, Council may wish to review other grounds for just cause evictions and delete those that the Council believes should be considered when the Council considers the more permanent legislation.

Despite some City Councilmembers talking about “clean” legislation, the City Council overly complicated the matter and instead should have just said “no rent increases and no evictions” for 65 days.

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35 Comments

  1. The owners of 470 say they are planning a significant remodel. How do you propose to allow such projects with new law?

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2015 @ 6:23 am

  2. #1 At least in San Francisco this type of Eviction renovation which make the Unit inhabitable) is considered ‘just cause’ vs ‘no fault’ which was addressed by Alameda City Council’. There are additional protections and restrictions in place in SF for these type of Evictions.

    Comment by frank m — November 24, 2015 @ 7:33 am

  3. The language used is important and I don’t think anything should be changed after any vote in this manner. It’s a bad precedent. As for rent control, it can cause unintended circumstances so care must be taken. An elderly relative of mine lived in a rent controlled apartment in a hot market, Brooklyn, NY. He was in excellent health in mind and body up until about a year before his death, and saw family frequently but they rarely met at his apartment because they’d do a lot of sight-seeing and there wasn’t room for them to stay with him, so out of town relatives stayed in a hotel. When he passed away, his son was horrified to see that the stove and ovend didn’t work and nothing had been maintained properly. In speaking to the neighbors, he learned that this is very common. The rent-controlled unit folks, mostly elderly, were last on the list for repairs and their requests were often ignored completely. The owners hoped that when their kids visited and saw the state of things, they would move them into a home and they could get a new tenant at four-times the rent. I can definitely see this happening in Alameda. Whoever crafts the new laws better be careful and smart about it or they are going to do as much harm as good. This is not an argument against new laws, just a warning that unscrupulous people will take any opportunity to circumvent the law or bend it to their will if you let them.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — November 24, 2015 @ 7:33 am

  4. Sounds to me like there need to be better laws to force landlords to do the actual upkeep on their rent controlled units. If the income wasn’t enough with the rent control, those landlords would have sold those buildings. Furthermore, there’s no proof in the above example that the relative or his family didn’t take advantage of existing laws to ensure that the landlord provided the appliances in the lease or according to state law. This doesn’t seem like a good reason to not have rent control. It sounds like a good reason to have even more protections.

    Comment by Angela Pallatto Hockabout — November 24, 2015 @ 7:44 am

  5. Is there a concern that the more you close “loopholes” and the more regulation generally in the final ordinance, the more units will be removed from the rental market in a way that affects some renters more than others? Not so much from the larger complexes that are harder to withdraw, but rather the smaller buildings, duplexes, and single family houses. According to the BAE rent study, those smaller buildings probably make up 25-35% of the rental market (hard to say because the study lumps 2-4 unit buildings into a single category) You can have all sorts of restrictions that the larger complexes may have to live with unless they convert to condos, but owners of smaller properties may decide at a certain point that rather than deal with an aggressive rent board it makes more sense to move in and sell out. Sure you can add even more regulation to try to make it even more difficult or more expensive for an owner of a small building to move back into their property. However, at a certain point – especially given the large number of owners of single family homes and duplexes (who are currently or may want to have the option of renting in the future without hiring a squad of lawyers) — support declines.

    Comment by MP — November 24, 2015 @ 8:21 am

  6. The owners of 470 say they are planning a significant remodel. How do you propose to allow such projects with new law?

    From SF rent control law:

    A landlord may recover possession of a rental unit if the landlord seeks in good faith and without ulterior motive to temporarily remove the unit from housing use in order to carry out capital improvements or rehabilitation work. Such an eviction is allowed only if the premises will be hazardous, unhealthy and/or uninhabitable while the work is in progress.

    In order to evict for capital improvement work, the landlord must obtain all the necessary permits before a notice to vacate is given. Copies of all necessary permits, a description of the work to be done and a reasonable approximate date when the tenant can reoccupy the unit shall be given to the tenant on or before the date the notice to vacate is served. The landlord must also advise the tenant in writing that the rehabilitation or capital improvement plans are on file with the Central Permit Bureau of the Department of Building Inspection and that arrangements for reviewing such plans can be made.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 24, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  7. #3 DS. The huge, unspoken reality of your example is that this elderly person had housing security in the midst of a ‘hot market’ – that’s the goal of rent control. Rent control is to protect renters from unscrupulous landlords and a rapacious market – it’s that simple. Owners are supposed to maintain their properties which appears to not be the case in your example. Owners are allowed to set rents that provide enough money for maintenance, upkeep and repairs plus return on investment and, because of this, there should be no excuses to ignore maintenance needs. But, if landlords do neglect maintenance, don’t blame that on rent control. In the case of Alameda landlords, they’ve had literally no restrictions on rent increases so are accustomed to 8%, 10% or higher annual increases and anything less than that seems like an unjust hardship. With CPI at 1%, though, there is no rational basis for 8% or 10% annual increases other than to maximize profits. Maximizing profits is not the standard – a ‘reasonable return’ is the standard, which is much lower than 8%.

    Comment by John K — November 24, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  8. The New Owner will have to pay the 100-200% increases in City Permit and Building Fees during remodel that were instituted about 12 months ago. The same minds that are trying to slow rental costs and housing costs have been jacking up city fees at 100-200 times the consumer price index. Interesting situation.

    The City Recieves transfer tax on the sale of 470 Central 67,100.
    The new owner will pay about 82,000 a year in Property taxes.

    Our City Transfer Tax is 2200% higher than 97% of California Cities.
    If Labor Costs to build rose at same rate as building fees and permits a construction worker would make about 4 Mil a year.

    If housing costs rose at same rate of building fees and permits , average house in Alameda would be about 30 Million.

    The new owner of 470 Central will have to charge 1974.75 a month just to break even per unit.

    Present renters I have empathy for, but these new owners are filling our City Coffers to the tune of a million plus and adding about 500 a month to the renters cost per month.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — November 24, 2015 @ 9:20 am

  9. So would there be “no rational basis”, ever, for raising the rent charged a single person for a two bed room apartment from $1800 to $1944 that a multi-person family currently renting a $1500 one bedroom apartment is very willing to pay?

    Comment by MP — November 24, 2015 @ 9:38 am

  10. “Our City Transfer Tax is 2200% higher than 97% of California Cities.
    If Labor Costs to build rose at same rate as building fees and permits a construction worker would make about 4 Mil a year.”

    Haven’t you made this point about 2200 times already? Either people have had their eyes open to the amazing insight or have dismissed it as irrelevant. Maybe you could simply type “See my previous posts” and save yourself some time.

    Comment by BC — November 24, 2015 @ 10:03 am

  11. BC the City just basically raised the Rents 500 a month by Doubling the Permit and Building fees to all units in the future that have to be remodeled.

    I think that is Eye Opening.

    Perfect example is what will be the future rents at 470 Central.

    You tie in all the other Taxes if a property sells it creates a doubling if not more of rents just for a owner to break even.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — November 24, 2015 @ 10:21 am

  12. 10. thanks. I just scanned but plan to read at length. Germany has also managed to protect their manufacturing sector to a great degree along with decent wages. Socialism.

    Denise, we’ve all heard crazy stories about New York rent control which I hope is not a model anybody would advocate, but ultimately an elderly tenant would be better off buying themselves a new stove than living without the security of rent control. There are many anecdotes from both sides. I heard one about two married musicians who divorced but remained living in the same rent controlled apartment for forty years because it allowed them to play music for a living. They were serious classical musicians. I’m not offering this as a great example of why New York rent control is great, just pointing it out as another story.

    Comment by MI — November 24, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  13. 12. your claims about the permit fee effects on rent are total horse apples. a dead horse at that.

    Comment by MI — November 24, 2015 @ 10:27 am

  14. Re: housing in Berlin

    1) Berlin, with the help of Allied air forces, hit the reset button on almost all its housing stock 70 years ago.

    2) Almost half the city was under communism for 40 plus years, the breakdown of which was a second reset button of a large amount of housing all at once.

    Point being that the Berlin way is largely the result of factors neither desirable nor easily duplicated in other places.

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2015 @ 10:46 am

  15. #9 MP. In a city with rent control and just cause evictions, the answer to your question is: no, no rational basis with the current tenant. CPI includes rent so rents are factored into CPI-related increases. Rent control is to protect renters – period. Ownership is an investment and in your example, the owner perhaps isn’t making as much as they would have liked….that’s the risk the owner took. We are talking about people’s lives and housing, not commodities or durable goods, etc. In the business of providing housing, consideration of how actions by the owner affect the tenant are much more acute than selling, say, tractors, smartphone, etc. It’s a matter of whether you think the market should take precedent over the housing security of individuals and whether the profits of a few are more important than stable and affordable housing for a lot of people. The owner can adjust rents when the current tenant vacates.

    Comment by John K — November 24, 2015 @ 11:35 am

  16. 16. I understand your point. The point of the example, however, was to ask whether the single renter of a two bedroom apartment should be entitled to require that the landlord continue to rent to him at a particular low rent, in perpetuity (because I think that is what you are asking for), when a multi-person family is willing to pay more for that two bedroom unit and whose lives and housing needs and perhaps a desire to be close to a school, not their desire for more smartphones, commodities or durable goods, justify their willingness to pay more for the two bedroom than they pay for a single bedroom. I guess we say that the multi-person family’s lives and housing needs are less important than the single person’s because the single person got there first (even though when the single person arrived before the enactment of any rent control it was without the expectation of indefinite tenure)?

    Comment by MP — November 24, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  17. 15. interesting points to consider. I’ll take them in to consideration when I read the article in full. BTW-did you read it?

    Comment by MI — November 24, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  18. yes

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

  19. 17. Your scenario is probably the rare exception – one person occupying a two-bedroom unit for a long period of time. There could be reasons that would allow that person to stay such as a death, divorce or separation or someone going off to school or abroad; or that one room is an office, etc. This scenario could play speculatively in a lot of ways. The landlord could attempt negotiating the tenant into a smaller unit at the same rent, etc. At some point, someone’s got to give in and compromise or someone’s got to be dig in or become unreasonable. This is definitely a ‘case-by-case’ situation that doesn’t have a cookie-cutter answer.

    Comment by John K. — November 24, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

  20. Looks like another city in Alameda county is having a rental crisis.

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/24/20k-a-month-for-berkeley-house-skyrocketing-rental-prices-draw-crowd-to-housing-affordability-teach-in/

    Comment by Mike McMahon — November 24, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

  21. I find it interesting that any slight attempt to modify the overwhelming imbalance of power held by housing providers (landlords and property owners) over renters produces such a strong reaction by the privileged and more powerful providers. The bigger and more greedy landlords who have been charging their tenants 20, 30, and 35 per cent increases are silent here, but their fellow landlords (the ones speaking up here) never suggest any substantive means to reign in that rampant greed.

    Our City Council seems frozen in amber, thinking that “working things out verbally” in our “Mayberry way” will still work, when renters are being driven out of Alameda, students are forced to change schools mid-year, and lives are seriously disrupted.

    “Fiddling while Rome burns” is a phrase that comes to mind, especially regarding those who speak of “the American system” in the half-truths of oversimplified propaganda. (Is money from the Koch brothers supporting any Alameda officials’ campaigns? It sounds like it…)

    If the “good” landlords of Alameda want to find solutions, they should stop forming toxic and misleading “astroturf” groups and sit down with renters to discuss what kinds of rent stabilization *will* help stabilize Alameda’s rents and stop mass evictions. Only crafting a fair and effective ordinance *together* will help stop our community’s social and economic, and educational disruption.

    Working together on *real* (far-reaching and fair) solutions IS “the American way.” Are there any genuine patriots out there among the landlords and property managers who are willing to engage with renters and do this hard work?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 25, 2015 @ 8:51 am

  22. I suggest all renters boycott Alameda rental units until they get what they deserve.

    Comment by jack — November 25, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  23. Yesterday evening, my husband responded to phone survey that started asking about his voting patterns and whether he heard of Bonta, Spencer, Ashcraft, Mataresse and Oddie. Then the caller asked whether he supported the ordinance that the council passed. The last part of the survey asked a series of questions trying to dissuade him from supporting rent control. At the end of the 16 minute call, he asked who was sponsoring the survey, and the caller said he didn’t know. Has anyone received a similar call?

    Comment by Cindy — November 25, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  24. #24 Cindy. Yes, lots of people are getting this same call. It’s being discussed widely on a couple of Alameda-based Facebook pages. A couple of people I’ve talked to face-to-face think the survey is sponsored by Tony Daysog and that’s probably why his name wasn’t mentioned in your call.

    Comment by John K — November 25, 2015 @ 10:30 am

  25. #25 John K. Thanks. The survey asked whether he had favorable or unfavorable impressions of the politicians. If Daysog sponsored the survey, would he want to know whether voters view him favorably?

    Comment by Cindy — November 25, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  26. #26 I think Daysog has gotten a pretty good taste of his favorability or lack thereof lately.

    Comment by jasonbuckley — November 25, 2015 @ 11:05 am

  27. #25. Let me put this issue to rest: I’ve definitely **not** directly or indirectly supported any survey whatsoever. Have never talked with anyone about this. Nor have I encourage any such thing. Long and short: I simply don’t run with any crowd whatsoever, let alone ones with the money to fund surveys. Thanks . . . and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Comment by tony daysog — November 25, 2015 @ 11:54 am

    • Tony Daysog doesn’t “run with any crowd” but seems to do the bidding of certain crowds by offering to call for review development projects that he claims no opinion on rather than expecting the group to file an appeal. An appeal would cost the group money and what other, non connected, citizens are forced to do when they have concerns about approved projects. A call for review is essentially “free” with the exception of the cost of staff time and the cost to the developer to bring in their professionals to defend the project. A cost that those “crowds” don’t incur.

      Comment by Lauren Do — November 26, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  28. #28 td. That was quick. Nice to know you are paying attention. 🙂

    Comment by John K — November 25, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  29. MC Tone Def in the hizzouse!

    Comment by jasonbuckley — November 25, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  30. “Our City Transfer Tax is 2200% higher than 97% of California Cities. Interesting, but not relevant. You know by now that housing issues change dramatically by location. What are Alameda’s percentages using our location in the inner Bay Area? Thanks.

    Comment by Li_ — November 26, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

  31. I have to admit, I don’t try to follow the discussion on the City’s transfer taxes and fees and their possible effect on rents. I guess I’m just not that much of a wonk. If it’s really true that taxes and fees are culprits in rising rents, why aren’t the landlords saying so, or am I just missing that? I mean, in my perfect world, landlords would have been down at City Hall long ago warning the mayor and council that “these transfer tax and fee increases will lead to rising rents – God forbid we having rising rents!” And, loads of no-fault evictions in order to get higher rents to pay for all the new fees and taxes? What am I missing?

    Comment by John K — November 26, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

  32. 15. I’m still read the article very quickly and I am mulling how much your two points effect what is occurring in Germany, not just Berlin, but I’m thinking it’s a bit apples and oranges in some respects. You also glossed over this one:”But in Berlin, an urban proletariat has been fighting property and rental profiteers for near two centuries. The Social Democratic Party, which has largely controlled Berlin’s state legislature since World War I, is known as the “party of the renters”..” Obviously there is an entire different mind set which makes direct comparisons difficult.

    Comment by MI — November 27, 2015 @ 8:50 am

  33. Speaking of “les incompetents” why has there been no police or press coverage of the incident that occurred at Encinal High a little over two weeks ago? Per two impeccable sources, someone smeared peanut butter on a student’s desk who has peanut allergies. Apparently, Alameda’s finest along with an ambulance, Alameda hospital and epinephrine prevented anaphylaxis.

    Comment by jack — November 28, 2015 @ 9:38 am


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